Ralph started calling more than 70 years ago in Nelson, NH, the Monadnock area town that has had contradancing continuously in its town hall for well over a century. He got to be quite popular as a caller both in New Hampshire and in the Boston area, and in fact during various periods in which contra and square dancing were at low points in popularity he was the only (or nearly the only) person to keep the tradition alive. It’s not at all an exaggeration to say that if it weren’t for Ralph Page we probably wouldn’t be dancing today. (By the way, the same thing can also be said of Dudley Laufman who brought the contradance scene back to life following its near death in the 1960’s.) Ralph Page became not only a caller but a scholar of contradancing. He published the Northern Junket, a far more ambitious publication than what I put out with far less sophisticated technology, monthly for many years. He wrote many excellent dances, and he researched and reconstructed many old dances. Although later in life he was known (especially by younger dancers) for his less than pleasant temperament, people who danced to him when he was younger have very fond memories of him and of his dances.
So, when Ralph Page died in the early 1980’s a committee was set up to keep his legacy alive; that eventually brought about the Ralph Page Dance Weekend which has occurred annually since 1988. It has turned into a weekend of outstanding dancing. From the beginning the emphasis has been on preserving the smoother style of dancing that Ralph favored (especially in his later years and especially at his Boston dances; I’m less sure about the style of dancing at his earlier rural New Hampshire dances). However, that doesn’t mean it’s a style of dancing only old people or old-fashioned dancers would enjoy. Rather, it means everyone who goes is trying to dance really well: to dance with the phrase, be ready for the next figure on time, to dance well with his/her partner, make the dances flow well, etc. So even if you enjoy a rowdy dance, it’s hard to beat dancing with a group of people all of whom are really dancing nicely together. Contra and square dancing involve teamwork, and it never shows up better than at the Ralph Page weekend.
January 13 – 15, 2012